March is Women’s History Month, and soon it will be March 21, which is Equal Pay Day. What an excellent time to reflect on how far women’s rights have come in this country and be mindful of inequities that still exist. At Hurwitz Law we litigate claims of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and pay equity gaps. Very few law firms are willing to fight for equal pay because damages are limited to wage differential. Hurwitz Law does not take a case based on the potential value of the damages—we take a case based on the strength of liability. Meaning, if you are a female being paid substantially less than your similarly situated colleagues, please do not stay silent. Send us an email at [email protected] and raise the issue for our awareness. Our firm has prevailed in eight pay equity cases in the last year alone.
Gender-based wage discrimination is a centuries-old problem that was heightened during World War II when millions of women began working while many men enlisted in the military. To address the increasingly visible issue, the National War Labor Board endorsed policies to provide equal pay. The Women’s Equal Pay Act legislation to make it illegal to pay women less than men for work of “comparable quality and quantity” was introduced in 1945, but was not passed until 18 years later during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
The Equal Pay Act, passed in 1963, mandates that employers give men and women working jobs that require “equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions” equal pay. The law allows unequal pay on the basis of “merit, seniority, workers’ quality or quantity of production and other factors not determined by gender.” The Educational Amendment of 1972 later expanded the Act to include white-collar executive, professional, and administrative jobs.
Achieving pay equality is an ongoing battle. Today, women make less than men in comparable positions. Overall, they earn about 82 cents for every dollar men earn, but the gap widens even further for women of color. Black women earn about 63 cents on the dollar, and Latina women earn 58 cents. This gap in pay varies across education levels, fields, and locations.
The numerous studies that affirm the existence of the gap cannot be delegitimized. Data is remarkably clear and consistent. The average working woman loses more than a staggering $530,000 over the course of her lifetime because of the gap, and the average college educated woman loses even more—nearly $800,000. There is much confusion over what attributes to the problem
While many argue that this persisting gender pay gap exists because women don’t negotiate their salaries as shrewdly as men, that is simply not the case. Instead, the gap persists because of both “sticky floors” and “glass ceilings.” Sticky floors are disadvantages women face throughout their careers. Obstacles include bosses underestimating female competency or qualifications when making job offers. Sticky floors account for about 40% of the gap, while glass ceilings account for 60%.
While the Equal Pay Act and the Educational Amendment were significant steps toward closing the gap, more should be done. The government should first raise the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, as the disparity is the largest amongst low-wage workers, of which women make up a disproportionate share. There are should also be greater investment in affordable, high-quality childcare and early child education to better support working mothers ability to keep their jobs and excel in the workforce.
Employers can institute protected sick days. 40% of private-sector workers do not get any sick days, and for part-time workers, that figure rises to a shocking 73%. This means that women, who most often care for sick family members, can lose pay or even their jobs just because they or their child gets sick. Employees can also actively work to support pay transparency so that women have better tools to address pay discrimination.
If you believe that you are not being paid fairly on account of your gender identity, contact our firm. We can help!